The 53-year-old former manager of the Braves, who was fired after a 9-28 start last season, got a lot of love from his former players upon his return to the team’s spring training facility.
“It was a little awkward,” admitted Gonzalez of walking back onto the field at Champions Stadium after serving as the Braves manager for five-plus seasons. “But we left in such great terms with everybody. I’m so happy for [new manager Brian Snitker] and wish him a lot of success. He’s a guy that’s been a longtime minor-league manager and coach in the big leagues. He’s been there 40 years in the organization. I’m really happy for him. We talk all the time.”
Gonzalez, who managed the Marlins from 2007-10, said the transition of returning to the Marlins has not been difficult for him at all. For him, really, it’s an entirely new situation.
“The only guy that was there when I was there was [Giancarlo] Stanton,” Gonzalez said. “And I think I only had Stanton three or four days before I was let go. But [manager Don Mattingly] has made me feel really comfortable, given me some responsibilities. The most fun I’ve had is coaching again. It kind of sounds funny, but as a manager you don’t coach. I’ve had fun coaching. I help out with the catchers a little bit, do a little bit of the pitchers bunting, that kind of stuff. It’s been really fun to do that.”
Gonzalez said he’s moved his offseason home from Marietta, Georgia, to a small town outside of Philadelphia.
“Everybody is moving south and I’m moving north,” said Gonzalez, a Miami native who graduated from Southridge High. “But I’m enjoying being here [in South Florida] with my mom and dad and my brother and sister again [during the season]. I get a chance to spend a little time with them.”
ICHIRO READY TO GO
Veteran outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who bruised his right knee and tweaked his lower back in an outfield collision with Brandon Barnes two weeks ago, will make his spring training debut on Sunday when the Marlins host the Houston Astros.
“We’re going to DH him [Sunday] and then play him in the outfield the next day,” Mattingly said.
“[Ichiro’s] last couple days, when he’s worked out, he’s been 100 percent. He did it right. He took his time, made sure he was 100 percent when he got on the field. He probably could have gotten on the field a couple days earlier. But I think he also knows himself well enough that when he gets out there he wants to be able to go 100 percent and play the game. That’s who he is.”
Ichiro, whose only stint on the disabled list was because of a bleeding ulcer in 2009, will be the Marlins’ fourth outfielder again this season.
Mattingly reiterated Saturday that the team will go with eight relievers and only four bench players when the season begins.
ELLIS TO MISS WBC
Mattingly said backup catcher A.J. Ellis, who tweaked his left hamstring doing baserunning drills prior to last Tuesday’s game, will not be playing in the World Baseball Classic.
“We’re probably looking at 10 to 12 days before we actually get him back out there,” Mattingly said.
“We’ll be cautious getting him back out there. He had a few at-bats already. We’re not concerned as far as him being ready for the season.
“He’s definitely disappointed. I know he wanted to be a part of [the WBC], and he felt like it was going to be his last shot to be a part of that.”
Mattingly said he expects Ellis will be able to get enough at-bats with some minor-league spring training games sprinkled in to be ready for the start of the season.
The plan, Mattingly said, is to start Ellis behind the plate one to two times per week to give starting catcher J.T. Realmuto some rest. When he’s not catching, Realmuto could also play some first base.
▪ Nobody in the Marlins’ clubhouse was happier about Dartmouth’s 1-0 upset of the 17th-ranked Miami Hurricanes baseball team on Friday night than Ed Lucas.
The Dartmouth grad, who is now an adminstrative coach with the Marlins, was actually a high school senior back in 2000 the first time the Big Green beat UM. Lucas was in the stands for that game as a fan in Coral Gables — the night after his senior prom — but couldn’t make it to Friday’s game at Mark Light Field.
“I actually wanted to go to the game, but I couldn’t make it obviously,” said Lucas, one of only two major leaguers to come out of Dartmouth’s program since 2000. “I talked to Coach [Bob Whalen] about two weeks ago. I stay in close contact with the program and try to follow the guys. It’s a big win for the program — especially since it’s so tough to win [at Miami].”